Page 29. " the lands of Dalcastle "
Dalcastle would be somewhere roughly on the circumference of this circle (470 * 428)
Public DomainDalcastle would be somewhere roughly on the circumference of this circle - Credit: Google maps

Though most locations in the Private Memoirs are genuine, Dalcastle, the place at the novel’s heart, is fictional. Since it takes Lady Dalcastle a day to walk back to her father’s home in Glasgow, we can guess that it lies about 25 miles from the city. Hogg scholars have pondered over a real-world basis for Dalcastle, but it is entirely in keeping with the novel’s major themes that the ultimate location should remain obscure.

Page 29. " That family was supposed to be a branch of the ancient family of Colquhoun, and it is certain that from it spring the Cowans that spread towards the Border "

Clan Colquhoun crest
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeClan Colquhoun crest - Credit: Celtus
Colquhoun is the name of a Highland Scottish clan which took its name from a barony lying on the shores of Loch Lomond in Dunbartonshire. The clan’s origins can be traced back to the reign of Alexander II (1214-1249) when Maol Domhnaich, Earl of Lennox, granted the lands of Auchentorily, Colquhoun and Dumbuck to Humphrey de Kilpatrick. It was Humphrey’s son, Ingelram de Colquhoun, who first took Colquhoun as a surname. Colwan, like Cowan, is considered a sept (or division) of the Colquhoun clan.

Page 29. " the sole heiress and reputed daughter of Baillie Orde of Glasgow "

'Old Glasgow', c.1868-1871
Public Domain'Old Glasgow', c.1868-1871 - Credit: National Galleries of Scotland Commons
A baillie was a magistrate - consequently, though Lady Dalcastle’s background is respectable, the marriage would represent a social step down for the laird, were it not for his need of the heiress's fortune. Pretending an objectivity which masks his real reluctance to incriminate the party with whom he sympathises, the Editor hastily glosses over what could be viewed as an act of mercenary opportunism.

At the turn of the 18th century when the novel’s action takes place, Glasgow was burgeoning into the major city it is today. Already a significant trading centre, the establishment of Port Glasgow in 1668 meant that the city was also fast becoming a mercantile and manufacturing stronghold. In 1700, its population stood at around 12,000.


Page 29. " the Reformation principles had long before that time taken a powerful hold of the hearts and affections of the people of Scotland "

The Reformation was a Europe-wide religious movement triggered by a spiralling resentment of the Catholic Church. Its origins can be traced back to 1517 when Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s document attacked the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical malpractice of the Catholic Church. Though he began by wanting to reform the church, differences soon proved irreconcilable. The result was a split within Christianity, leading to the establishment of Protestantism.

Other prominent figures within the movement were John Calvin (see note for p. 30) and John Knox. It was the latter who led the Scottish Reformation, culminating in Scotland’s formal break with papacy and the establishment of the Church of Scotland in 1560.


Page 30. " the stern doctrines of the reformers "

Interior of St. Peter's, Rome, 1731.
Public DomainInterior of St. Peter's, Rome, 1731. - Credit: Giovanni Paolo Panini
The Protestant reformers opposed the pomp and ostentation of the Catholic Church, associating it with a deep-rooted corruption which, through an avaricious focus on earthly riches, undermined the very teachings of the Bible. This stance led to a rejection of luxury which, in the Scottish Reformed Church, developed into an austerity that prohibited swearing, gambling, dancing, fornication and public recreation on the Sabbath.

Page 30. " She had imbibed her ideas from the doctrines of one flaming predestinarian divine alone "

The flaming predestinarian in question is John Calvin. His teachings had a huge influence on the austerity so resented by the laird (and, implicitly, the Editor), but it was perhaps his doctrine of predestination that provoked the most controversy. Calvinism states that God, who has ordained all events in advance, has sovereign control over the ultimate destinies of his creations. Furthermore, as a result of the fallen condition of mankind, nobody is capable of true righteousness and salvation occurs as a result of God’s grace alone. Thus each woman and man is consigned from the start to either divine election or to damnation; their faith and virtue, or lack of, is immaterial.



Page 31. " that heathen land of the Amonite, the Hittite, and the Girgashite "

Map of the Promised Land, 1607
Public DomainMap of the Promised Land, 1607 - Credit: Gerhard Mercator & Jodocus Hondius
These are the names of some of the biblical tribes who dwelt in the land of Canaan. They were ultimately driven out of this “land flowing with milk and honey” when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and to this, their ‘Promised Land’. Although its precise parameters are not known, Canaan roughly corresponds to modern Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and western Syria.

Page 31. " the broad way leading to destruction "

This refers to Matthew 7:13: “Enter ye in at the strait gate for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” In other words, following the path of God demands a commitment to self-sacrifice.

Page 34. " It shall never be said, Sir, that my person was at the controul of a heathenish man of Belial "

Illustration from
Public DomainIllustration from "Buch Belial" (1473) depicting Belial’s demonic acolytes paying court to their king - Credit: Jacobus de Teramo
Belial, usually translated as “lacking worth”, is a biblical personification of evil and unbelief.

Page 38. " a very worthy respectable lady, of good connections, whose parents had lost their patrimony in the civil wars "
1810 depiction of the Battle of Worcester, 3rd September 1651, in which the last major Scottish Royalist army were resundingly defeated
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike1810 depiction of the Battle of Worcester, 3rd September 1651, in which the last major Scottish Royalist army were resoundingly defeated - Credit: Machell Stace
Scotland was embroiled in a series of civil wars known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms which ran through the years 1639 to 1651 and involved England, Ireland and Scotland. These disputes pitched Parliamentarians against Royalists and essentially revolved around the right of the monarch to determine the civil and religious practices of his subjects. Scotland’s uprising was triggered by Charles I’s attempt to impose a modified version of the English Prayer Book on the Scottish Presbyterian Church in 1637. In 1638, Scotland drew up the National Covenant defending the religion, leading Charles to try to enforce his will through military means. This engendered what became known as the Bishops’ Wars, in which the Covenanters were ultimately victorious. Scotland, however, was far from unified in its support for an uprising against the king and the Scottish Civil War broke out in 1644. Here too the Covenanters defeated the Scottish Royalists. However, their success was to be short-lived: when the Covenanters’ alliance with the English Parliamentarians broke down, Oliver Cromwell led his ‘New Model Army’ against them. By 1651, Scotland had been defeated.

A reconstruction of a Covenanters' conventicle.

Page 38. " the Canaanitish woman "

One who lived in the land of Canaan before Moses led the Israelites there and is hence not amongst God’s chosen people.

Page 38. " Wringhim had held in his doctrines that there were eight different kinds of FAITH, all perfectly distinct in their operations and effects "

To read a modern translation of Calvin’s writings on justification by faith, click here

Page 39. " To the wicked, all things are wicked; but to the just, all things are just and right "

This is a variation of Titus 1:15: “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure.” Most biblical commentators agree that these lines refer to the distinction between clean and unclean foods made by Judaism. However, they have also been used more controversially by some adherents of Calvinism to justify the idea that Christians are free from moral constraint. Such assertions are not to be met with from Calvin himself. Though he did not believe that salvation was contingent on one’s acts, he did believe that divine grace would naturally inspire good works.

Page 39. " Stand aside, thou Moabite! "

Map of Moab and surrounding territories
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMap of Moab and surrounding territories - Credit: Richard Prins
In the Old Testament, the Moabites occupied a mountainous stretch of land in what is now Jordan. Though they were descended from the same stock as the Israelites, they were frequently at war with them and did not share their chosen status.


Page 43. " He neither would countenance the banquet, not take the baptismal vows on him in the child’s name "

Stained glass window depicting the baptism of Christ
GNU Free Documentation LicenseStained glass window depicting the baptism of Christ - Credit: Andreas F. Borchert
Baptism, or the ritual immersion or sprinkling of a person in water to cleanse them of sin and initiate them into the Christian church, would have had very different meanings for the Catholic Colwan and the Calvinist Lady Dalcastle. According to Catholic belief, baptism is essential for salvation. Calvin, on the other hand, believed that the ritual was a sign of spiritual purgation but not the means through which salvation was achieved. The baptismal vows would have required Colwan to renounce, on the infant’s behalf, Satan, all his works and all his pomps.

Page 43. " George was brought up with his father "

The practice of giving the first-born son the same name as his sire was popular at this time. It stemmed from the custom of making the eldest son the heir to his father’s property; the same name was given in order to ensure that these inheritance rights were duly administered. The legacy George receives from the laird is more than financial: he also inherits his views and lifestyle. It is, of course, significant that Lady Dalcastle’s second child is named after Rev. Wringhim – a fact which can be seen as an acknowledgement of his true paternity.

Page 43. " he was only to pray for the elect, and, like David of old, doom all that were aliens to God to destruction "


David and Goliath, 1600
Public DomainDavid and Goliath, 1600 - Credit: Caravaggio

The biblical patriarch David was the second king of ancient Israel and is traditionally regarded as the author of the Psalms. He is represented as a paradigm of monarchical righteousness, though he was not without his flaws. He was responsible for defeating the Philistines and his slaying of the giant Goliath is one of the best-known stories in the Bible. He also won huge victories over the Moabites, the Arameans, the Ammonites and the Edomites before establishing his kingdom in Jerusalem. According to Nathan the prophet, God decreed that this land was to be ruled over by David and his descendents for all eternity (2 Samuel 7:16).


V&A's cast of Michelangelo’s David
Creative Commons AttributionV&A's cast of Michelangelo’s David - Credit: Luis Armando Rasteletti
Page 45. " under the influence of the Earls of Seafield and Tullibardine, he was returned for a Member of Parliament in the famous session that sat at Edinburgh, when the Duke of Queensberry was commissioner "


James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, as commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland, was at this time embroiled in the controversy surrounding the potential unification of England and Scotland. Though the session of 1703 referred to here failed to reach an agreement, in 1707 Queensberry procured the signing of the Treaty of Union which was to unite the two countries into the single kingdom of Great Britain. England’s motivation resided in the desire to ensure that royal succession took place along Protestant lines and to forestall the possibility of an independent Scottish monarch forming alliances against her. The Scottish, meanwhile, hoped to access English subsidies in order to recover from the debt they were in and to remove English trade sanctions. With the blending of religious and political motivations, the issue caused temperatures to run high amongst the populace.

Articles on Union
Public DomainArticles on Union - Credit: Parliament of England
The Earl of Seafield was James Ogilvy, a Scottish politician. During 1707, he as an active promoter of the Act of Union but would later change his views. By contrast, the Earl of Tullibardine, John Murray, was vehemently opposed to the Union and had plotted to take Stirling Castle siege against the crown until financial compensation persuaded him out of his plans. Both, therefore, are associated with political hypocrisy.


Page 45. " the Duke of Argyle "
John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich, c. 1718-25
Public DomainJohn Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, c. 1718-25 - Credit: William Aikman
John Campbell, the second Duke of Argyll, was a field marshall as well as a nobleman. He was a staunch supporter of the Act of Union, and was rewarded for his furtherance of the cause with the titles of Baron Chatham and Earl of Greenwich.
Page 45. " very shortly after their arrival in Edinburgh "

Edinburgh in Scotland
GNU Free Documentation License
Edinburgh in Scotland

Edinburgh in Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is located to the south-east of the country at the mouth of the River Forth. During the 17th century, it was a compact but rapidly-growing settlement. In the years between the Reformation and the Wringhims’ arrival, the population had almost trebled to 45,000 and it was well on its way to becoming the “picturesque, odorous, inconvenient, old-fashioned town” it was during Hogg’s time.

Throughout history, Edinburgh has occupied a prominent position both politically and culturally. It was the seat of the royal court until James VI (I of England) moved down to England, and of the Parliament of Scotland until the Act of Union. It was also the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the number of influential thinkers and writers it produced earned it the name ‘Athens of the North’ during the 18th century.


Panoramic view of Edinburgh,1868
Public DomainPanoramic view of Edinburgh,1868 - Credit: Illustrated London News


Page 45. " a match at tennis "

Tennis is generally thought to have developed in France during the 12th century, though rackets were not incorporated into the game until the 16th century. Until the 19th century when a ball capable of bouncing was invented, the game was played on indoor concrete courts using a sheepskin ball filled with sawdust, sand or wool.

Page 49. " a number of the leaders of the Whig faction "
Charles II (170 * 240)
Public DomainCharles II - Credit: Peter Lely

In Scotland at this time, ‘Whig’ was a derisive term for a radical Presbyterian faction of the Covenanters (see note for page 38). Also known as the Kirk Party, the Whigs opposed the Engagement with Charles I – this being a secret treaty in which the Covenanters proposed a military alliance in exchange for Charles’ agreement to support the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. The Kirk Party’s General Assembly was recognised in Scottish civil law, and their denouncement of the Engagers led to the latter being banned from holding public office. The faction crowned Charles II as monarch in 1651 after the assassination of Charles I. This was done in exchange for his endorsement of the Treaty of Breda (1650), in which he agreed to establish Presbyterianism as the national religion and to recognise the Kirk Party within English civil law. However, as Scotland had by that time been defeated by Cromwell’s army, the treaty was already meaningless.

Page 49. " the Marquis of Annandale "

William Johnstone, 1st Marquess of Annandale, 1703
Public DomainWilliam Johnstone, 1st Marquess of Annandale, 1703 - Credit: John Smith

William Johnstone, 1st Marquess of Annandale, was a Scottish nobleman who opposed the Union though he later served as a representative peer from 1709-13. Here again is a prominent figure associated with a hypocritical crossing of the political divide.

Page 50. " at the back of the Canongate "

The Canongate is a small district at the heart of Edinburgh. When King David I established Holyrood Abbey in 1128, he gave this area to the Augustine canons which led to its being granted burgh status. Canongate’s relationship with its neighbour, Edinburgh, was highly turbulent and marked by frequent disputes over boundaries until the former was incorporated into the latter in 1856. The area also became the site of the Scottish Parliament when it was established in 1707.


Cannongate Tollbooth, late 19th century
Public DomainCannongate Tollbooth, late 19th century - Credit: Cornell University Library